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For Professionals: Personal Effectiveness (2)

Monday, 17 September 2012 12:56

Get Better Meeting Results

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Dept. – Strategy (page 11) [CLEAN]

Get Better Results From Your Online Meetings

By Wayne Turmel

If you’re wondering why so many meetings end up with nobody’s mind being changed (and thus time wasted and people frustrated), you’re not alone. Turns out psychologists have been wondering the same thing. Recent research shows that once you’ve stated your opinion, you’re not very likely to change your mind. That explains a lot about the failure of meetings, especially online.

A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology points out an important point for anyone who is worried about the quality of their meeting outcomes.  Most human beings fail to process information that differs from their stated opinions. Not only is this important for meetings in general, but there are additional lessons for those who run online meetings and conference calls:

  • If you’re worried about quality, quit worrying about consensus.

                Keeping peace on the team is important, but sometimes you need the best possible answer to a problem, not the one that makes the most people happy. Team members need to keep the end result in mind. Meeting leaders should state it frequently and keep bringing people back to the objective. Online, the objective can quickly become “getting done in time for the next conference call.” Maintain focus.

  • Stating your position means you’ve drawn a line in the sand for everyone to see.

                The biggest point in the research is that, once people have stated a position, they tend to defend it rather than honestly assess conflicting information. Try running the meeting or call by starting with the criteria a good solution will have, rather than asking for everyone’s solution to a problem. It’s easier to be objective about a position that won’t meet those criteria than it is about your precious ideas.

  • Hearing someone else’s position locks you in place, too.

                Even if you don’t have a stated position, you begin to assess what you’ve heard — and it isn’t always on the quality of the evidence. Politics plays a big role in these situations. Your opinion of the speaker’s point (and often it bears an eerie resemblance to what you’re already thinking) dictates your willingness to step up and raise questions that could make all the difference in the quality of the outcome.

  • Online, it’s hard enough to get a word in edgewise or even get people to say anything at all without creating conflict.

                Why is meeting online even more impacted by these dynamics? Because it’s harder to get people to offer quality input in the first place. Unless you, as the meeting facilitator make a special effort, it’s very easy for people to lose focus and put effort into their email rather than the task at hand, so good ideas and conflicting points get left unstated. Since so many people are quietly wishing the clock to speed up so they can get on with their “real” work already, why drag it out by continuing discussion if the decision is predetermined?

As the meeting leader, it’s important that you keep people focused on the outcome and its criteria and find ways to encourage as much feedback from as many sources as possible before people state their opinions or solutions.

Monday, 17 September 2012 12:54

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

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Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.

Why have you been so successful in reaching some of your goals but not others? If you aren't sure, you are far from alone in your confusion. It turns out that even brilliant, highly accomplished people are pretty lousy when it comes to understanding why they succeed or fail. The intuitive answer — that you are born predisposed to certain talents and lacking in others — is really just one small piece of the puzzle. In fact, decades of research on achievement suggest that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are but more often because of what they do.

  • 1. Get specific.

    When you set yourself a goal, try to be as specific as possible. "Lose 5 pounds" is a better goal than "lose some weight," because it gives you a clear idea of what success looks like. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve keeps you motivated until you get there. Also, think about the specific actions that need to be taken to reach your goal. Just promising you'll "eat less" or "sleep more" is too vague — be clear and precise. "I'll be in bed by 10pm on weeknights" leaves no room for doubt about what you need to do and whether or not you've actually done it.

  • 2. Seize the moment to act on your goals.

    Given how busy most of us are and how many goals we are juggling at once, it's not surprising that we routinely miss opportunities to act on a goal because we simply fail to notice them. Did you really have no time to work out today? No chance at any point to return that phone call? Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.

    To seize the moment, decide when and where you will take each action you want to take, in advance. Again, be as specific as possible (e.g., "If it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday, I'll work out for 30 minutes before work.") Studies show that this kind of planning will help your brain to detect and seize the opportunity when it arises, increasing your chances of success by roughly 300%.

  • 3. Know exactly how far you have left to go.

    Achieving any goal also requires honest and regular monitoring of your progress — if not by others, then by you, yourself. If you don't know how well you are doing, you can't adjust your behavior or your strategies accordingly. Check your progress frequently — weekly, or even daily, depending on the goal.

  • 4. Be a realistic optimist.

    When you are setting a goal, by all means, engage in lots of positive thinking about how likely you are to achieve it. Believing in your ability to succeed is enormously helpful for creating and sustaining your motivation. But whatever you do, don't underestimate how difficult it will be to reach your goal. Most goals worth achieving require time, planning, effort, and persistence. Studies show that thinking things will come to you easily and effortlessly leaves you ill-prepared for the journey ahead and significantly increases the odds of failure. 

  • 5. Focus on getting better, rather than being good.

    Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability. Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed — that, no matter what we do, we won't improve. As a result, we focus on goals that are all about proving ourselves, rather than developing and acquiring new skills.

    Fortunately, decades of research suggest that the belief in fixed ability is completely wrong — abilities of all kinds are profoundly malleable. Embracing the fact that you can change will allow you to make better choices and reach your fullest potential. People whose goals are about getting better, rather than being good, take difficulty in stride and appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

  • 6. Have grit.

    Grit is a willingness to commit to long-term goals and to persist in the face of difficulty. Studies show that gritty people obtain more education in their lifetime and earn higher college GPAs. Grit predicts which cadets will stick out their first grueling year at West Point. In fact, grit even predicts which round contestants will make it to at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

    The good news is, if you aren't particularly gritty now, there is something you can do about it. People who lack grit more often than not believe that they just don't have the innate abilities successful people have. If that describes your own thinking ... well, there's no way to put this nicely: you are wrong. As I mentioned earlier, effort, planning, persistence, and good strategies are what it really takes to succeed. Embracing this knowledge will not only help you see yourself and your goals more accurately, but it will also do wonders for your grit.

  • 7. Build your willpower muscle.

    Your self-control "muscle" is just like the other muscles in your body — when it doesn't get much exercise, it becomes weaker over time. But when you give it regular workouts by putting it to good use, it will grow stronger and stronger, and better able to help you successfully reach your goals.

    To build willpower, take on a challenge that requires you to do something you'd honestly rather not do. Give up high-fat snacks; do 100 sit-ups a day; stand up straight when you catch yourself slouching; try to learn a new skill. When you find yourself wanting to give in, give up, or just not bother — don't. Start with just one activity, and make a plan for how you will deal with troubles when they occur ("If I have a craving for a snack, I will eat one piece of fresh or three pieces of dried fruit."). It will be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier, and that's the whole point. As your strength grows, you can take on more challenges and step up your self-control workout.

  • 8. Don't tempt fate.

    No matter how strong your willpower muscle becomes, it's important to always respect the fact that it is limited and that, if you overtax it, you will temporarily run out of steam. Don't try to take on two challenging tasks at once, if you can help it (like quitting smoking and dieting at the same time). And don't put yourself in harm's way — many people are overly confident in their ability to resist temptation, and, as a result, they put themselves in situations in which temptations abound. Successful people know not to make reaching a goal harder than it already is.

  • 9. Focus on what you will do, not on what you won’t do.

    Do you want to successfully lose weight, quit smoking, or put a lid on your bad temper? Then plan how you will replace bad habits with good ones, rather than focusing only on the bad habits themselves. Research on thought suppression (e.g., "Don't think about white bears!") has shown that trying to avoid a thought makes it even more active in your mind. The same holds true when it comes to behavior — by trying not to engage in a bad habit, our habits get strengthened rather than broken. If you want to change your ways, ask yourself, “What will I do instead?” For example, if you are trying to gain control of your temper and stop flying off the handle, you might make a plan like "If I am starting to feel angry, then I will take three deep breaths to calm down." By using deep breathing as a replacement for giving in to your anger, your bad habit will get worn away over time, until it disappears completely.

    It is my hope that, after reading about the nine things successful people do differently, you have gained some insight into all the things you have been doing right all along. Even more importantly, I hope you are able to identify the mistakes that have derailed you and use that knowledge to your advantage from now on. Remember, you don't need to become a different person to become a more successful one. It's never what you are, but what you do.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., is a motivational psychologist and author of the new book Succeed: We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press, 2011). Her personal blog, “The Science of Success,” can be found at




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